A few weeks ago, the Pincher Creek Mustangs football program was in jeopardy of being unable to field a team for the 2023-24 regular season because of changes to Football Canada’s roster rules.
Under the new rules, teams looking to compete in nine-a-side football needed 17 players registered before the season began, otherwise they’d be ineligible for regulation play.
Fortunately, the Mustangs were able to recruit enough players for their bantam team to compete in league action this year.
“We were thrilled to get the players we needed to field the bantam team,” says Faith Zachar, president of the Pincher Creek and District Mustangs Football Society.
“We had been recruiting since April when we had our Stamps Camp, and more recently, we started recruiting at all the schools and putting the word out on Facebook. When we finally came up with the last recruit we needed, we were just ecstatic.”
The team’s season opener was against the Lethbridge Rams Gold on Sept. 9 at the University of Lethbridge Stadium. Despite a solid effort, the Mustangs fell by a score of 34-6.
Pincher Creek’s home opener was played this past Saturday at Matthew Halton Field, where the Mustangs faced the Lethbridge Coyotes in a nail-biter of a contest.
The Mustangs played well, even leading 14-0 partway through the third quarter, but the determined Coyotes mounted a comeback, capped by a touchdown with just 1.6 seconds left, to win the game 21-20.
Despite the 0-2 record, Faith is thrilled with what she has seen from both new and returning Mustangs athletes on and off the field.
“They’re all so determined to play and help each other out, especially the ones returning to the team. You can tell they’re all becoming very close, very quickly,” she says.
Sean Oliver, head coach of the bantam Mustangs, is also happy with this relatively inexperienced club.
“What’s nice to see as a coach is that they are playing to win every play. They may not have the experience, but they compete hard and aren’t afraid to go up against anybody,” he says.
“There’s a really good trajectory with these kids, and I’ve been really impressed with how well the boys have worked and how they’ve soaked up everything that I can teach them as a coach.”
Despite being unable to recruit a sufficient number of athletes for the peewee and senior clubs this year, both teams will be competing in exhibition games organized by the Mustangs throughout the fall.
Confirmed dates are posted to the Mustangs group page on Facebook, with more to be added later.
The hope is that this time next year, the Mustangs will have a sufficient number of registered athletes for all three teams to compete in league play.
Based on the current makeup of the senior team, Faith believes the Mustangs should have enough bantam athletes moving up to the senior level to qualify for regular season play next year.
The same applies to peewee players moving up to the bantam level to meet roster needs, so the recruitment focus moving forward will be primarily on peewee athletes.